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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Author Insight: Author Editions

If you got the opportunity to write an author edition of one of your books, what deleted scenes or extras would be included?

"That’s a hard question, because I try hard to put the deleted scenes out of my mind. I really do believe the finished product is the book that was meant to be out in the world, so I’m not really hung up on deleted scenes. I would like to (and probably will, on my website!) share a soundtrack to Meant to Be. Music is really important to the story, and also to me as a writer, so look for that!" - Lauren Morrill, author of Meant to Be.

"Extras would include select spreads from scrapbooks such as these ones I made for Sea Hearts/The Brides of Rollrock Island. Deleted scenes I wouldn’t restore; there’s usually an excellent reason why they were deleted. I might include a short story or two recycled from a deleted scene, though." - Margo Lanagan, author of The Brides of Rollrock Island

"None. I kind of hate that stuff. I get really into books and movies, so when new stuff is released that isn’t included in the final product, I go, “Is this official? Did this really happen to the characters?” Like alternate endings on DVDs—what is the actual ending? I want to know. Tell me. Does Will Smith really blow himself up with a grenade or did he make it out alive?" - Dan Krokos, author of False Memory

"With Devine Intervention, the author's edition would come with a fresh, hot corn dog." - Martha Brockenbrough, author of Devine Intervention

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Risks of Recommendation

Credit: www.studiojuliakay.com

Ever check out someone else's dust jacket? Admit it. It's not dirty.

You're standing in your favorite aisle of the bookstore (or library), and you spot someone holding one of you favorite reads. If you're anything like me, your first impulse is to tell them what a great book it is and usher them toward the register. The trouble is putting yourself out there to give a book recommendation is a lot like throwing out a pick-up line. It's a craps shoot, and it could go horribly wrong.

You strike up the conversation and you wait, noting the closest escape route in case an uncomfortable situation arises. Will the sudden and possibly incoherent professing of your undying love for a book send the message that you're a passionate bibliophile or a socially awkward and somewhat creepy loner they should slowly back away from? Will you hit it off and talk titles or will they squelch your enthusiasm with a withering look?

I mean, why is it so damn tough sometimes to just say...

Nine out of ten times, I take the risk. What's the worst thing that could happen? You find yourself alone in an aisle full of books. No negatives there. (More books for you, right?) Even if the person does hear you out and doesn't buy immediately, who knows? Your recommendation could lodge in their brain like a tiny knowledge grenade that will go off at a later date. 

I have a pretty good recommendation record, I think. I've chatted about books with teens, parents, and even a courthouse deputy admittedly perusing the Young Adult section for himself. I've never had anyone outright shut me down. I have experienced the fake out though. You know, where someone smiles, nods and picks up the book you're talking about then puts it down as soon as you turn away? Can't win 'em all.

What is all comes down to is that book lovers are literary evangelists. It's kind of what we do. And, let's face it, any opportunity to share a book you love is a good one. Some people talk about which celebrities are dating and who got voted off the island this week. We talk books, and we can't stop. Spreading the word about a good book may get you some strange looks, but personally I think the successes make the strikeouts worth it. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 384
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

This is contemporary YA in its most vulnerable, rawest form.  This is romantic YA at its most passionate, its most genuine.  Pushing the Limits unrelentingly grabs hold of your heart and doesn’t let go until the very end.
Honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to feel about Pushing the Limits when I picked it up.  I have a bit of a history with Books About Issues, which is my way of saying that they aren’t always my particular poison.  Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried.  This is more a Book About People.  Those people happen to have some issues to handle, but the important thing to note is that neither Echo nor Noah want their issues to define them.  Echo has been through such a terrible trauma that she’s repressed the memory, and her hands and arms bear the scars of a horrifying act that she can’t even remember.  Echo is also artistically gifted, whip smart, and stronger than she realizes.  Noah lost his parents in a fire, only to become separated from his two younger brothers due to technicalities in the foster care system.  He’s also a fiercely loyal friend with a heart as big as all outdoors.  While they are thrown together by their shared counselor, it’s not surprising that they’re drawn to one another, even if it takes them a while to notice what’s going on between them.

And what is going on between them is happy-making on so many levels.  Katie McGarry deftly alternates the points of view between Echo and Noah each chapter, and seeing their feelings develop in their own words is simply divine.  Their voices are distinct, matching their personalities exactly as they are depicted.  And they are so dang hot for one another, I swear my book nearly burst into flames so many times.  I particularly enjoyed Noah’s chapters because I love a well-written male POV.  His growth beyond the silent stoner kid with his hair in his eyes delights me, and the way he melts Echo and melts for Echo delights me even more.  He makes it his goal to be the best he can be, not just for her but for himself as well.  

This isn’t to say that I didn’t like Echo as much, because oh me, I am all about the Echo.  Girl has been through more sadness in her few years on this planet than most people see in their entire lives, and she still manages to, you know, keep on living.  I love every moment when she forgets her scars.  I love every time she doesn’t let anyone dictate her friendships.  I love when she realizes that Noah Hutchins, the baddest bad boy in her class, has inspired her to become a stronger, fiercer Echo.  I just really, really hope she catches a break at some point.  I mean, besides getting to make out with Noah.

Pushing the Limits is honest, authentic, and so very hot.  Katie McGarry made me grin, blush, and weep—sometimes all in the same chapter!  This is a must-read for anyone who loves character-driven contemporary YA.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Q&A with Katie McGarry & Pushing the Limits Giveaway

Thanks to Harlequin Teen we have the chance to give away a finished copy of Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. As an added bonus, Katie shared some insight into her novel.

What was your inspiration for writing Pushing the Limits?
I had two main inspirations: One, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write a story in which my characters felt strong enough to leave their pasts behind and create new futures for themselves. The first scene I ever saw in my mind was Echo and Noah leaving town after graduation. Two, I wanted to write two characters who were facing over-whelming issues and who, through battling these issues, found hope at the end of their journey.

How did you come up with Echo’s name?
Echo went through several name changes as I wrote the man- uscript. For a while, she had a very normal name, but it alwaysfelt off. It wasn’t until I looked at Echo from her mother’s point of view that I found her name. Echo’s mother loved Greek my- thology so it made perfect sense that she would name her chil- dren after the myths. I read several Greek myths and the mo- ment I found Echo’s, I fell in love. Echo, to me, was the girl who lost her voice. Thankfully, she finds it by the end.

Which character is the most “like” you?
All of them. I gave each character a piece of me (though some have larger slices of me than others). Overall, I’d say I’m a strange combination of Echo, Lila and Beth. Echo has my need to please, Lila has my unfailing loyalty to my friends and Beth encompasses my insecurities.

Did you experience friendships with Grace types when you were in high school?
Yes. And the more people have read this story, the more this question comes up. Grace has struck a stronger nerve in people than I ever would have imagined. It seems most of us have un- fortunately experienced a relationship where a person wants to “like” you and wants “be your friend,” but only if it serves their needs. In case anyone is wondering, that isn’t friendship.

Are there any parts of the story you feel particularly close to?
Yes. The relationship between Noah, Isaiah and Beth. Beyond my parents and sister, my nearest family members were over fourteen hours away. My friends became my family. The peopleI grew up with were more than people I watched movies with or talked to occasionally on the phone. These were people with whom I shared life’s most devastating moments, but also my hardest laughs. These were people who I would have willing- ly died for and I know they would have done the same for me. They shared my triumphs with smiles on their faces and con- gratulatory hugs. They held me when I cried and offered to beat up whoever hurt my feelings. These were also the same people who were more than happy to get in my face if they thought I was making a wrong decision.

Did anything that happens to Echo happen to you?
Sort of. I was bitten by a dog when I was in second grade and repressed the memory. It felt very strange to have no memory of an incident that other people knew about. It was even strang- er to have injuries and not have an inkling where they came from. In college, I finally remembered the incident when a dog lunged at me. I relived the horrible event and sort of “woke up” a few minutes later to find myself surrounded by people I loved. Even though I “remember” the incident, I still don’t remember the whole thing. I only see still frames in my mind and there is no blood in any of the memories.

Giveaway: U.S. & Canada only.

More Author Insight: Fiction Pet Peeves (2)

What's your biggest pet peeve in fiction writing?

"Do you mean the biggest pet peeve when I write fiction, or my biggest pet peeve in the fiction writing I read? For the one: It's that I can't stop myself from using certain cliched adages and idioms. I always end up going through my first drafts, scrawling 'UGH!' and 'BETTER!' wherever I've written something horrible like 'as cold as ice.' In the fiction I read, I am really fed up with allegedly 'strong' female characters who go all gooey and weak in the presence of 'that special guy.'" - Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers

"I don’t really have one. There’s room for all of us. If  I got the opportunity to write an author edition: I should probably not. I’m grateful for all my editor’s changes. I was proud of my initial book, but it’s much better now." - Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of My Life Next Door

"If you mean pet peeve in fiction I read, then it's definitely characters or worlds that aren't fully developed. If you mean pet peeve in writing, then I need at least six more hours a day." - C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance.

"I have so little time to read now that what I do read is excellent. But what bothers me is when the writing doesn’t feel alive. If the writer isn’t connecting with their material, it shows from the first sentence, the first paragraph." - Lissa Price, author of Starters. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (19)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 
that highlights eagerly anticipated books.

Velveteen by Daniel Marks
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Author Website: http://velvetandnyx.blogspot.com/

Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that's not the problem.

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it's not a fiery inferno, it's certainly no heaven. It's gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn't leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what's really on her mind.


Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she's figured out just how to do it. She'll haunt him for the rest of his days. 

It'll be brutal . . . and awesome.

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen's obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she's willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker.

Velveteen can't help herself when it comes to breaking rules . . . or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her.

Why can't I wait?
I mean, did you read the description? The concept has me extremely intrigued. Revenge combine with paranormal and a little forbidden romance thrown in for good measure. Yes, please!

Literary Lures: Yara from Once Upon a Twilight

Literary Lures is a new feature here at Wastepaper Prose that will run every Wednesday into the fall. Some awesome bloggers will be stopping by to tell you what hooks them on books and give some recommendations of books they love.

Yara from Once Upon a Twilight is here today to share what about books lures her in. She'll tell how she picks new reads, why she'll part ways with a book, and what she can't get enough of right now. 

Where you can find her... 

List the top three things that hook you into buying a book. 
The main thing would be word of mouth, then the cover and finally the blurb.

What type of storyline never fails to grab your attention? 
Everything and anything dystopian lately.

What kind of love stories do you always fall for? What makes you want to root for those couples? 
I am a big sap, so I DO love the Happy Ever After, if its not I usually get turn off from the book. When a couple deserves to be in love, I hope all the best for them in the author's writing. I hope that they don't had ego suffer to much to get that H.E.A.

Some books get released as quickly as you snatched them up. What makes you put a book down and how do you know it’s time?
I will put a book down just as quick as I began reading it, if the book is insulting people in real life sense. I think thats just not necessary especially when you are writing fiction. I also can't read some rape scenes, they leave me very troubled.

Books that have hooked Yara: 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Author Insight: Fiction Pet Peeves (2)

What's your biggest pet peeve in fiction writing?

"I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented and thoughtful editors. When they suggest changes, they always show me how they are in service to the story. I think it’s not even a question about changes, it’s a question of surrounding yourself with people who want to see you and your book succeed. That kind of trust allows me to be flexible, because I know no one is going to ask me to compromise my writing." - Lauren Morrill, author of Meant to Be.

"I don’t like the fact that every novel has to go through the stage of collapsing completely and having to be remade. It’s happened enough times now that I know not to be alarmed when it happens, but it really is horrible sitting in the middle of a messed-up novel trying to decide which broken bit to pick up and fix first." - Margo Lanagan, author of The Brides of Rollrock Island

"Trends. More importantly, how they develop. They make for less creative books. I don’t think people loved Hunger Games because of the dystopian aspect. People responded because it’s a great story that is hard to put down. That should be a trend. Instead we have books flooding the market that all sound the same, but are missing the core element that made the original thing great in the first place." - Dan Krokos, author of False Memory

"Every published book has readers who've loved it enough to do the work to bring it into the world. I always try to read a book and understand what is lovable about it. I do get frustrated when I see writing that could be fresher, condensed, or more delightfully specific." - Martha Brockenbrough, author of Devine Intervention

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Release Date: April 19, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Pages: 304
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Amazon
It's always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.
I must confess. I am a Greek mythology fangirl. Given my love of all things Greek myth, picking up The Goddess Test was a no-brainer. Sadly, I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this book. I almost walked away from it, but I'm glad I picked it up again.

 It's been four years since the cancer was supposed to have taken Kate's mother, but she's hung on. Her last request is for Kate to take her home to Eden, Michigan, a town that barely qualifies as civilization. Kate resumes school, which had been on hold, tries to make friends, and attempts to cobble together some semblance of a normal life at her mother's urging. That is until her first attempt being social ends in tragedy and she's forced to make a choice that changes everything.

I have to say I was a little disappointed in the actual deal. Okay, I know it's a retelling/reimagining of the Persephone myth but I missed the deception, the gimmick if you will, that traps Persephone (or in this case Kate) in the underworld. Remember, she's tricked into eating four seeds of a pomegranate and thus condemned to live in the underworld for four months a year? Instead it's just decided that Kate will be there six months. No rhyme or reason. No trickery. It felt like a set-up for a kinder, gentler version of the classic myth. She struck the deal so there's no one to resent.

Aimee Carter created a take on the underworld that hooked me, a cast of characters whose interactions kept me reading and a concept that made me want to see the book through to the end. However, irregular pacing, tepid romance and excessive amounts of exposition and introspection made that a challenge. There were also parts of the book that felt forced and made the flow of the story feel less natural.

I actually got to the halfway mark or a little further and put the book down for a while. I'd enjoyed what I read so far, and I wasn't turned off by any one specific thing. I simply wasn't invested in the way that makes you need to finish a book.

The Goddess Test wound up being a pleasant read with a mostly unexpected ending that left me satisfied. Mostly, the story just felt longer than it needed to be. But if you aren't a Greek myth snob (yes, I admit it) and you don't mind a slower pace then you'll probably like this reimagining quite a bit.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Release Date: Aug. 23
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Pages: 379
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Rule #1: Do not show fear.
Rule #2: Do not show pity.
Rule #3: Do not engage.
Rule #4: Do not let your guard down.
Rule #5: They lie.

Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.

Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.

I do not watch horror films if I can help it.  In fact, one of the only horror flicks I’ve ever made it through was The Exorcist and it terrified me like a little girl who is terrified of exorcisms.  So, as I read the summary of Possess, I thought to myself, “What would possibly possess me to read a horror novel that sounds like the YA version of The Exorcist?” (You see what I did there?)  In spite of my fears, I devoured Gretchen McNeil’s delightfully dark and twisty tale as fast as I could.  Possess was creepy as all get out, but it was also sweet, hilarious, and entirely entertaining.

Bridget has the ability to hear and speak to demons as well as the power to send them packing from wherever they happen to be squatting.  She somehow manages to come across as fierce and snarky while handling something that’s completely otherworldly, and that’s a big reason why I couldn’t put this book down.  In many ways, Bridget reminded me of Buffy Summers—a teenage girl who wants nothing more than to be utterly ordinary but cannot help that she is all things extraordinary.  Oh, and she’s a quipping machine which is also quite Buffy-like (or rather Joss Whedon-like).

The plot barrels forward at a perfect pace, rarely ever giving you a chance to catch your breath whether you’re holding it in fear, gasping with laughter, or sighing with romance.  Like I said, I’m pretty much terrified by the entire idea of exorcisms, and this played into all of those fears, as well as a few more.  At one point, Bridget has to exorcise an antique doll store, where the evil spirits have possessed the dolls to move and stare and speak in demonic voices.  In other words, they are my nightmares.  Aside from the scary scary dolls, there’s also the murder mystery to figure out.  I couldn’t help thinking of Veronica Mars during much of this search, most especially when she questions alleged murderer of her father and super insane guy Milton Undermeyer.

Bridget’s relationship with Matt is a nice, subtle distraction from all the demonology.  It’s clear from the moment he appears that Matt is all about the Bridge, but it is so much fun to watch Bridget realize her own feelings.  Also, any boy who can confidently rock a purple tie, grey waistcoat and a matching grey fedora to a school dance instead of a suit is a-ok to me.  Though Matt’s is my favorite, all of the relationships in this book felt so authentic.  I loved any interaction we got with little brother Sammy, who could simultaneously seem younger and older than his proper age of 8 at any given moment, as well as best friend Hector.  I haven’t heard a talk of any more books after this, but I certainly wouldn’t mind more time with these characters.

If you’re looking for a fast, well-paced, creepy fun story with a snarky heroine, I would definitely recommend Possess.  Even with all of the things that made my scaredy-cat heart weep, I will read anything else Gretchen McNeil throws my way.  Just, no more dolls.  Please.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More Author Insight: Altering the Words

How much of a manuscript are you willing to change at the request of an agent or editor? Would you change it if it meant a certain distributor or book club wouldn't offer your book otherwise?

"It depends on how much sense I think the request makes! There's an old saying: 'If someone tells you something is wrong with your book, they're probably right. If they tell you how to fix it, they're probably wrong.' So if my agent or editor tells me something isn't working, I take an extra look at it, but I only change something if it still works for me. And God no -- I would never change a story that works just to fit some distributor or book club's preferences! I was told a year ago that a British publisher thought I Hunt Killers was too intense and asked if I would tone it down. I refused and just figured I wouldn't be published in the UK. But a few months later, another publisher stepped up and took the book as-is. So, no." - Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers

"I would change a lot. I was an editor before I was a writer and I believe in the scope and vision of editors and agents. One can get very tunnelly as a writer, and I think it cannot possibly be a bad thing to have someone pull back and see the big picture." - Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of My Life Next Door

"I make any changes that I feel strengthen the story. If a requested change runs counter to what the characters would authentically do, or to my vision for the story, then I stand my ground. But my editor is amazing, her vision lines up with mine, and there have been very few suggestions that haven't resonated with me." - C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance.

"My editor, Random House Children’s Books, prides themselves on preserving first amendment rights and not exercising censorship. So they’d never suggest that. Same with my agent. I’m free to write what I want, which is the way it should be. Funny thing though, my book is a ‘clean read.’ It just came out that way." - Lissa Price, author of Starters. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (18)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 
that highlights eagerly anticipated books.

Every Day by David Levithan

Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Author Website: http://www.davidlevithan.com/

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. 

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

Why can't I wait? 
If David Levithan's name is on the cover, I'm usually there regardless, but this one pulls me in anyway.  This sounds like a very interesting concept, and I'm curious to find out how it's executed through Levithan's certain brand of talent.

Literary Lures: Kat from Books & Sensibility

Literary Lures is a new feature here at Wastepaper Prose that will run every Wednesday into the fall. Some awesome bloggers will be stopping by to tell you what hooks them on books and give some recommendations of books they love.

Kat from Books & Sensibility is here today to share what grabs her attention when she's shopping for new reads. She'll tell you what grips her about specific storylines, shy she chooses books off the shelves, and how she knows when it's time to set a book down for good. 

Where you can find her... 

List the top three things that hook you into buying a book.
The top three things that will hook me into buying a book are the cover, hype and the author. I think the cover thing is obvious-- even though it shouldn't, pretty covers always draw me in. I just I know they will look pretty on my shelf or when I'm carrying them around. As for the hype, if I hear a lot about a book, good or bad, I will most likely have to pick it up and make my own judgement. This was how I read Twilight and The Mortal Instruments. Lastly, if I know an author from either meeting them or following them on Twitter and  feel like I have a connection to them, I am more inclined to pick up the book. I want to support authors who I feel connected to.

What type of storyline never fails to grab your attention?
Any kind of twisted, speculative/ dystopian fiction storyline always draws my attention. I love the ones where society is essentially the same, except for one thing. I'm always intrigued by things like,  what is we lived in a world where love was a disease (Delirium by Lauren Oliver) ? What if abortion was outlawed, but you could become unwound (Unwind by Neal Shusterman) ? What if all the human life span was reducing to 25 (Wither by Lauren DeStefano) ? These scenarios grab me because I want to see how our characters thrive in this environment and more importantly how present day themes still exisit within the book's society.

What kind of love stories do you always fall for? What makes you want to root for those couples?
I like love stories that develop over the whole course of the novel and not just insta-love. I'm also finding that I'm a fan of the manic pixies in relationship, whether they are male or female when they are done well. Kind of like the love interests in John Green and Sarah Dessen novels. I think it's because they offer this unbelievably to the story, that makes it more fun.I root for the couples that have a relationship with high stakes. I also like the ones that had a past together and are rediscovering one another in the present. A little unresolved sexual tension doesn't hurt either. Some of my favorite YA couples are Ethan and Lena in Beautiful Creatures and Adam and Julliette in Shatter Me.

Some books get released as quickly as you snatched them up. What makes you put a book down and how do you know it’s time?
When a book is in a series I am often time more likely to let it go for a while. No matter how much I enjoy a series, I always end up with series fatigue towards the end. Also, if a book sounds anything like Twilight I probably won't pick it up. There are just so many similar stories and they are all pretty similar.

Books that hooked Kat: 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Release Date: Feb. 28, 2012
Publisher: First Second
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Pages: 224
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
A coming-of-age tale with a spooky twist!

Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After an idyllic childhood of homeschooling with her mother and rough-housing with her older brothers, it’s time for Maggie to face the outside world, all on her own. But that means facing high school first. And it also means solving the mystery of the melancholy ghost who has silently followed Maggie throughout her entire life. Maybe it even means making a new friend—one who isn’t one of her brothers.

Graphic novels are a medium I’ve been dying to explore for years.  I grew up in a comics-heavy household, but I rarely ever drifted away from the Riverdale gang in Archie comics (in case you’re curious: Betty, duh).  In recent years, I’ve looked to graphic novels to break out of a reading rut, as I found that they have a special way of reigniting my creative side and showing me a whole new way to look at a story. 

So how excited am I about diving into some YA graphic novels?  In a word: extremely.  If they are all standouts like Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends with Boys, then I’m definitely in for a treat.  Friends with Boys is a perfect gateway read into the graphic novel world for someone who’s unfamiliar with or hesitant to read them.  It’s the relatable story of a Grade 9-er named Maggie McKay, chronicling her first time attending public school and all of the literal and figurative ghosts that follow you home.

Maggie is a very real and tangible protagonist.  Even if you haven’t been homeschooled, you can understand her wariness to attend school outside of her kitchen for the first time.  She has more than enough to handle, with her mother being absent, her father getting promoted, and her brothers acting how brothers do, and it endears the reader to her almost from the first panel.  Because of Maggie’s endearing qualities, it’s both enjoyable and adorable to witness Maggie come out of her shell and befriend punky siblings Lucy and Alistair.

And speaking of the Siblings Mohawk, I must state that I pretty much love them both for many different reasons.  Not only did I delight in Lucy’s quirkiness and Alistair’s smooth confidence, I thought their backstory was brilliantly compelling.  Friends with Boys is all about finding the strength to be who you are without apologies, and Lucy and Alistair show that every day.

What drew me to Friends with Boys in the first place, however, was the artwork.  At first glance, it reminded me of the work of Bryan Lee O’Malley (he of Scott Pilgrim fame), which is that realistic yet cartoon-y style.  In short, it was just what I was looking for.  Once I dove in, however, Hicks showed that she has a style all her own—sometimes bubbly and random (I couldn’t stop giggling about the visual depiction of “AWKWARD SILENCE”), others dark and twisty, but always gorgeous.  Certain panels were especially memorable, like Maggie’s exit from the house on her first day, her detailed map of What’s What at Sandford High, and definitely any scene in the graveyard with the strange and somber ghost.  I always feel the best comics are ones where the art and story are perfectly complemented, and that’s certainly the case here.

If you’re looking for something a little left of normal without completely delving into the comics world, I absolutely recommend Friends with Boys.  Hopefully, it will inspire you to look beyond your comfort zone genre and take a chance on something new.  I know I’ll be taking on more graphic novels, and more Faith Erin Hicks novels, in the future.

Author Insight: Altering the Words

How much of a manuscript are you willing to change at the request of an agent or editor? Would you change it if it meant a certain distributor or book club wouldn't offer your book otherwise?

"I’ve been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented and thoughtful editors. When they suggest changes, they always show me how they are in service to the story. I think it’s not even a question about changes, it’s a question of surrounding yourself with people who want to see you and your book succeed. That kind of trust allows me to be flexible, because I know no one is going to ask me to compromise my writing." - Lauren Morrill, author of Meant to Be.

"Oh, I’ll change quite a lot, if I see that editors’ suggestions make sense, which mostly they do. My two most recent novels were pretty much rewritten, at least twice each, after editorial consultation. I probably wouldn’t do it at the behest of the book club, though. It wouldn’t make so much of a difference to my incomings that it would be worth my time and effort." - Margo Lanagan, author of The Brides of Rollrock Island

"I firmly believe the people working with me and on my book are smarter than I am. I am willing to change anything that doesn’t make me go 'Wait, this isn’t what I’m trying to do.' Luckily I’ve never been in a situation where major story or character points have had to change. As far as if the changes would mean the difference between higher distributions or not, I’ve never heard of that happening. I’ve heard of it happening with covers." - Dan Krokos, author of False Memory

"As long as you're working with an agent or editor who understands the story you're trying to tell, you should be willing to change everything—except that story. One benefit of having written articles and such for almost 25 years is that I can separate the words on the page from the words in my head and heart. I will change what's on the page until my story takes readers on the emotional and intellectual journey I'm intending. That is where editors and agents and other trusted readers are vital. My novel, for example, is on one level about how hard it is to have the courage to do the right thing. It is not about the awesomeness of kissing (although there is one awesome kiss). So if my editor had said, 'I want your book to have more tongue because really good kissing has a bit of tongue,' then it would be clear he was looking for a different kind of story. I teach writing and read lots of manuscripts, and I think what holds most people back is not being willing to change the story enough to make it reach the reader in all the right ways." - Martha Brockenbrough, author of Devine Intervention

Monday, July 16, 2012

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Release Date: July 5, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 277
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
An arresting un-coming-of-age story, from a breathtaking talent.

Becca has always longed to break free from her small, backwater hometown. But the discovery of an unidentified dead girl on the side of a dirt road sends the town--and Becca--into a tailspin. Unable to make sense of the violence of the outside world creeping into her backyard, Becca finds herself retreating inward, paralyzed from moving forward for the first time in her life.

Short chapters detailing the last days of Amelia Anne Richardson's life are intercut with Becca's own summer as the parallel stories of two young women struggling with self-identity and relationships on the edge twist the reader closer and closer to the truth about Amelia's death.

A sinister novel full of speculation, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone had me hanging on till the end. A story about the lives of two girls -- one living, one dead -- it sheds light on the innermost social workings of a small town riddled with secrets and living under the cloud of a tragedy that doesn't belong to it.

The two girls' stories converge on the dusty stretch of road outside Rebecca's sleepy New England town where Amelia's life came to an untimely end. The gruesome nature of Amelia's death and the gossip and suspicion surrounding the investigation remind Rebecca that violence can invade any place at any time and make her think twice about leaving home.

A recent high school graduate, Rebecca has never really felt like she fit in Bridgeton and is anxious to begin a life anywhere else. The only thing standing between her and the future is the summer. A summer of change, doubt, and heartache that she never expected. The summer when the body of a young girl  -- Amelia Anne Richardson -- just setting out into the world was found in a twisted, bloody heap on the side of an old country highway.

What made this novel particularly riveting is that it's told in first person omniscient, a rare treat in fiction when done well. Saying the narration is truly omniscient though may be a stretch. Beautifully written and told with an authoritative voice, you're left to question what's fact and what's fiction as Rebecca recounts the events of that summer through the eyes of an entire town.

Periodically throughout the story, Rebecca stops to speculate on what might have happened. The constant asides within the story will likely annoy a reader expecting a completely reliable narrator and a straightforward account of what happened that summer, but I have to say it worked incredibly well for me. I'm not normally a mystery reader and the speculation and situational pondering helped to amp up my suspicion and lend a more ominous tone to the book.

I also really liked the fact that the people and relationships in the book are genuine and real. Rebecca's boss Tom has a way of talking to her that rings true of long-time bosses in small communities who adopt their employees as a surrogate family. The local cops aren't portrayed as country yokels but well-intended guys in over their heads. Even the people who left town once upon a time in hopes of striking out to find a better life and returned to the comfort of home felt three-dimensional, despite being nameless and only mentioned in passing. 

The couples -- Rebecca & James and Amelia & Luke -- become increasingly more human and their stories more gripping as the book intensifies. They act like a couple who've come to a crossroads in their lives and thusly their relationship. There's no sugar-coating or false sense of sentimentality. In more ways than one, their stories, full of hope and sadness, run parallel to each other.

I have only one complaint and one regret with Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone and the two go hand in hand.

Sometimes the asides within the narration threw me off track. While the language was beautiful and I was easily ensnared by the gorgeous writing, I often emerged from a scene or chapter unsure where I was in the book's timeline. And that leads to my regret.

I regret taking a reading break at the halfway point. Sometimes it has to be done, but I didn't have to this time. I was enthralled by the writing, invested in the story and anxious to get to the end. So why did I put it down? Maybe the combination of near-mind blowing writing and graphic imagery, such as "eyes like peeled grapes" to described the dead eyes of Amelia Anne, was just too intense. I can't really explain it, but I can't help but think that if I'd read straight through that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't have lost the timeline and then I'd have no complaints with this outstanding novel.

Let's just say, Kat Rosenfield and her amazing debut novel have ruined me for whatever book I read next.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Author Insight: Writerly Flaws

What’s your biggest writerly fault, and how do you cope with it?

"I'm incredibly impatient. As soon as I sit down to write a book, I want it finished. As soon as it's finished, I want it published. As soon as it's published, I want everyone in the world to read it immediately so that I know if anyone liked it. It's horrible. I try to cope by writing as many books as possible so that I'm always distracted!" - Barry Lyga, author of I Hunt Killers

"Pantsing. Not really knowing how it will all work out until it works out. I cope by just keeping on." - Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of My Life Next Door

"Doubt. Is that a fault? It creeps in and can paralyze me. I cope with it by writing more. Action always slays doubt, depression, and despair." - C.J. Redwine, author of Defiance.

"I’m a lean writer and need to go back and add description. Writers I admire tend to be mean and lean in order to have a fast-paced story. But I know that readers like and expect a certain amount of it, so for me it’s a later-draft issue." - Lissa Price, author of Starters.